As winter is finally settling in Europe and other parts of the northern hemisphere, the first icicles start to appear, and the call of ice climbing can be heard. If the cold weather stays, it should not be long before the waterfalls turn solid and the first ice climbers show up. Numerous events are organized around the world and these are valuable occasions to test equipment, train, learn techniques, share information and meet with other ice climbers. Ice climbing is a serious endeavor and requires all the skills and precautions of mountaineering. Train physically, technically and prepare your equipment. If you do not feel confident with your technical skills and level do not hesitate to hire professional mountain guides. Stay tuned to the weather forecasts, and gather information on the conditions of the ice and of the snowpack.
A few valuable basics for ice-climbing (non exhaustive):
- Be very aware of the conditions of the ice and the surrounding environment
Consider this activity as a mountaineering activity, with serious and variable risks; rapid changes in conditions can increase the risk at a formation from “acceptable” to “dangerous”, even “unacceptable”.
How have the conditions been over the past few weeks? What is the forecasted temperature? Double-check the ice quality on site. Is there an avalanche risk from above? Are there other climbers already in the route? If so, avoid climbing the same line.
- Don’t forget your helmet and headlamp
You must wear a helmet at the base of the climb, as you would when climbing. A face shield can protect the eyes from flying ice shards. Remember to take a headlamp for late finishes. Keep your headlamp warm by having it close to your body during the day. Carry a threading tool, a cordelette equal to or thicker than 8 mm, and a long ice screw in order to be able to set up a natural ice thread anchor at any given moment.
- Use double ropes
Avoid falling, if possible: Falling with ice axes in your hands and crampons on your feet can have serious consequences. Clip the ropes alternately along the route, and use energy absorbers (e.g. NITRO 3) to limit the shock force on the ice screws in case of a fall.
- Think about protecting the seconding climber
Set up your stations to the side, not directly in line with the next pitch. Place enough gear on traverses so that the second climber doesn’t pendulum in a fall.
- Managing time, gear and effort
Ice climbing is generally practiced during the shortest days of the year. Be quick in all the transitions, when installing the belay stations, and during all maneuvers. This will easily save that precious half-hour which will allow you to descend before dark. Organize your clothing well (remove layers when climbing and put them on to stay warm at the station); one pitch may take 30 to 45 minutes per team member, even an hour, to climb... beware of freezing winds and dripping water that can make the wait at the station very unpleasant. Manage your effort well, standing on your feet whenever possible so as to not exhaust the upper body.
Consult our pages for ice climbing equipments and technical information
Ice climbing information websites in Europe:
Ice-fall areas around Briançon Hautes Alpes
Camptocamp forums conditions and reports from all places
Belledonne38 areas around Grenoble
Alpsudnet southern Alps
Promo-grimpe areas around Grenoble
Reve ephemere areas in Savoie and Haute Savoie
Glace Maurienne areas of the Maurienne valleys
Cascades areas of the Vosges mountains
Ceillac areas around Ceillac Hautes Alpes
Chamonix.net areas around Chamonix, Val de Cogne (Italie), Trient (CH)
Skiexpe areas around La Grave Hautes Alpes
Montagne-Oisans areas of the Oisan Massif
Valgaudemar areas of the Valgaudemar Valley
Nicolas Zambetti area of the Jura massif
Lesca François areas of the Central massif
pgm15 areas of the Central massif
Gavarnie areas of Gavarnie, Pyrenées
Remi Thivel areas of the Pyrenées
infohielo all areas of Spain
Icyways areas of Switzerland
isklatring.no conditions and topos of Norway
2012 Ice Climbing Events:
- January 6th-8th 2012: Kanderstegg (CH) : competition, technical workshops, Petzl tool demos and an evening with Ueli Steck.
- January 5th-8th 2012: Ouray Ice Festival (Colorado, USA): competition, technical workshops Petzl tool demos and party.
- follow this link for other events in North America
- January 12-15 2012: Ice Climbing Ecrin (l'Argentiere la Bessee, Hautes Alpes France): film festival, competition, workshops, Petzl tool demos and party.
- January 13-15 2012: Eis Total (Malta Kärnten Austria) competition, technical workshops, Petzl tool demos, igloo construction and party.
- January 27-29 2012: Gorzderette (Champagny la Vanoise, Savoie, France) competition, wintersport tournament, workshops, Petzl tool demos and party.
- January 27-29 2012: Val Cenis CAF meeting (Val Cenis,
Savoie, France) ice screw resistance workshop, technical workshops, Petzl tool demos.
- January 28 2012: Veneon valley ice meeting (St Christophe en Oisans, Isere, France) technical workshops and discovery of ice climbing
- 2012 Ice World Cup schedule:
- January 14-15 2012. - Cheongsong, Korea.
- January 20-21 2012. - Sass Fee, Switzerland.
- February 4 2012. - Champagny en Vanoise, France.
- February 10-11 2012. - Busteni, Romania.
- March 8-10 2012. - Kirov, Russia.
- Info: http://www.theuiaa.org